You know what a poor email campaign looks like: dozens of emails sent at odd hours, no personal touch, and emails that are overly lengthy and poorly written.
Email marketing is an excellent way to get your messages directly to the consumers most interested in your products and services. A successful email marketing campaign helps small businesses connect directly with customers and forge a bond.
However, to ensure your emails don't end up in the spam folder, you must follow government regulations and incorporate specific strategies. Let's explore email marketing and look at some best practices to improve your email marketing campaigns.
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Why is email marketing so important?
An email campaign is an excellent marketing strategy for the following reasons:
- It expands your reach. As a communication tool, email has an incredible reach, especially compared to social media marketing and traditional marketing practices. Nearly half of the global population uses email, so it's easy to get in people's inboxes.
- It's direct communication with customers. Emails create a two-way connection that allows you to communicate directly with your customers. You can use email to inform customers about new products, build brand awareness and create a community.
- It helps you find new customers. In addition to communicating with current customers, you can use email campaigns for customer acquisition. A well-written cold email that addresses interested parties' needs and pain points can be a fruitful lead-generation tool.
What are the most essential email marketing elements?
There are specific tactics to improve your email open rate that are easy to implement. When drafting an email campaign, follow these best practices to make your emails more engaging and authentic:
- Include an email signature.
- Don't use "no reply" in the sender email address.
- Personalize every greeting.
- Use no more than three typefaces.
- Invite readers to subscribe to your newsletter.
The average email marketing return on investment (ROI) is about $36 for every $1 spent. According to Campaign Monitor, the average open rate for email campaigns varies widely by industry, ranging from 17% to 28%, and the average click-through rate (CTR) for all industries is around 2.3%.
These numbers should give you realistic expectations for your emails' performance. Each industry has different benchmarks, so following best practices is just one part of the puzzle. You should also research your target audience and craft emails accordingly to outperform your competitors.
Email marketing best practices for beginning your campaign
It's essential to follow these email marketing best practices when you start your campaign.
1. Comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
In 2003, the U.S. Congress passed a series of sweeping regulations on email commerce known as the CAN-SPAM Act. Those regulations still inform the foundation for what is legal and illegal in email marketing, and businesses must understand these rules.
The law revolves around seven regulations that can result in more than $40,000 in penalties if not followed:
- Do not use misleading or false information in your headers.
- Do not be deceptive in your subject lines.
- Always identify an advertisement as such.
- Disclose your business location to recipients.
- Tell recipients clearly how to opt out.
- Honor those opt-outs in a timely fashion.
- Monitor your hired marketers (if any) for compliance with these regulations.
2. Keep your customers in mind when testing content.
So many ineffective email campaigns treat their customers as interchangeable pieces. When the audience isn't considered, emails can come across as dry, robotic or even insulting. When crafting your email marketing campaign, try out different messages to determine what works. For instance, A/B test your email content by sending one version to half a test group and another version to the other half. Tested material is likely to perform better for your campaign. Throughout the process, keep your recipients' tastes, values, and needs in mind, and respect their time by using proper email etiquette.
3. Create a recognizable email address.
When creating a sending email address, choose a name or title recognizable to your recipients. Instead of using a generic address with "no reply" or "marketing" in it, personalize your address so that subscribers know what to expect from your content. Ensure your email address is valid so that you can receive and respond to any replies. [Read related article: Why You Should Ditch No-Reply Emails]
4. Choose a reputable email provider.
The email provider you use for your marketing campaign is just as crucial as your content. Compare the best email marketing services and software to see which one fits your budget and needs. Many of these services offer free trials, so you can try a few options before committing to an email marketing partner.
Email marketing best practices for during your campaign
It's crucial to implement these proven strategies in your email marketing campaigns.
1. Keep it short and straightforward.
You don't want responses to your emails to be along the lines of the dreaded "TL;DR (too long; didn't read)" designation. Long and tedious emails are likely to be ignored.
Aim for content that is about 200 to 300 words and gets to the call to action (CTA) with as little scrolling as possible. You want your email recipients to digest your pitch, authority and CTA as quickly as possible.
2. Personalize your emails.
Even though you're sending mass emails, there are still ways to personalize them for the reader. Many email applications can automatically add the reader's first name to the subject line and throughout the message. You can also create custom emails based on a customer's purchase history.
As a marketer, you should do the little things to make customers feel like you're speaking directly to them. With so many emails flooding inboxes, small personal touches can greatly improve customer loyalty and retention.
3. Decide which metrics to track.
With the ability to track and analyze email data, every marketer should be following certain metrics. The crucial email analytics to track are ones that directly indicate success, such as your CTR, conversion rate, overall ROI, open rate and unsubscribe rate. Ultimately, though, you should track the metrics that have the most influence on your unique goals and analyze them to achieve your objectives.
4. Time your emails strategically.
Sending an email at the right time on the right day of the week can help you catch a recipient's eye without getting lost in a pile of messages. Studies show that the best days of the week to send your emails are Tuesday, Thursday, and Wednesday, in that order.
These are the best times of day to send emails, ranked by performance data:
- 10 a.m.
- 8 p.m.
- 2 p.m.
- 6 a.m.
Like the content, the timing of your emails will benefit from frequent testing. You can even mix and match your A/B testing with different days and times to maximize conversion.
5. Create landing pages.
To get more conversions, email campaigns should contain links to landing pages. Customers can click onto these pages to learn more about a brand or product. They may also be able to purchase the email's highlighted products or services on the landing page. These landing pages give readers who want to learn more about your business an extensive look at your offerings beyond your email copy.
6. Limit the links in your emails.
Links to your website in your emails can quickly drive traffic to your page and funnel customers to a sale. However, an email loaded with links can easily distract recipients from the content flow and even undercut your CTA.
To effectively deploy links in your email, take a content management approach that keeps your link structure intact on your emails and website. If an email link goes to your landing page, make sure that landing page includes logical internal links to a product or service, and that your links are eye-catching and clearly indicate where they'll take the reader.
Best practices for your email list
Running an email marketing campaign means building an email list and maintaining it properly. Keep the following strategies in mind to ensure a healthy email subscriber list.
1. Scrub your list.
A long list of email recipients isn't helpful if the recipients don't engage with your business. Removing the recipients who don't open your emails has several advantages:
- Lower costs of campaigns
- Fewer spam reports
- Higher CTRs
When your email list is limited to those who want to receive your messages, it's easier to segment your list (see below).
2. Segment your email list.
According to email marketing service Mailchimp, segmenting your email list based on various criteria – such as purchase history, buying behavior and location – can increase your open rates by 19% and CTRs by 22%.
Segmentation allows you to send more personalized emails. Recipients get the information they want and don't have to read through the information that doesn't apply to them.
Obviously, writing a unique email for each recipient is impossible. However, you can compose an email specifically for new customers, or those who visited your site but didn't make a purchase. These are just a few of the myriad ways you can use segmentation in your email campaigns.
3. Always offer an unsubscribe option.
Opt-out provisions are required by federal law, but unsubscribe options also help you whittle a recipient list down to those who genuinely engage with your emails.
Offering an unsubscribe feature – and honoring it – also prevents your emails from ending up in the dreaded spam folder. If you don't allow customers to unsubscribe, you could hamper your email campaign from the start.
Building vs. buying a list
When you start your email campaign, you'll need a list of email addresses. Ideally, this will be customers or prospects who have opted in to your company's emails to learn more.
However, to scale an email list more quickly, companies often buy email lists of potential leads that seem to fulfill demographic (and even psychographic) data points. While buying subscribers may generate a more expansive list, the addresses may not be accurate. If the list is full of old, invalid or fake email addresses, your emails could be marked as spam.
Buying an email list could end up damaging your reputation, and the email addresses you gain may be useless. While it may take longer, building a list of quality, relevant subscribers will be more beneficial in the long run.